Sowing the seeds for the new rules on biodiversity

New planning legislation will be introduced in November 2023, requiring developers to assess the impact of a new development on biodiversity. In this article, our colleague Sam Rodgers tells us more about the rules – and what developers must do to ensure their proposals improve natural habitats.

When the new Biodiversity Net Gain (BDNG) rules come into force, it will bring changes that will prioritise the preservation and enhancement of natural habitats.

This is an important aspect of modern development – especially when thinking about greenfield sites or sites which have been left to become overgrown with dense scrub.

The law will require developers to enhance the natural habitat of such developments, ensuring it’s bio-diversity is better than it was pre-development.

What do developers need to do?

There’s a lot of guidance out there as developers prepare for this change, central to which is a new biodiversity metric tool that will help calculate what habitats have been lost and what is needed to be done to achieve a net gain.

Ultimately, if you’re a developer looking to submit a planning application for the development of land which has a bio-diversity rating after the 1st November 2023 then you will need to use the tool and make these assessments.

After 1st November you will be required to demonstrate a 10% bio-diversity net gain. This value that must be achieved using the new tool and be assessed by an Ecology Consultant and agreed with the Council.

Improving habitats

But what if your plans don’t meet the required 10% net gain on site? In such cases you’ll need to literally go back to the drawing board, partnering with your designers and supply chain to find viable alternatives. Developers are being encouraged to introduce innovative green spaces for wildlife and nature to flourish – things like the creation of an orchard, a green roof, or sustainable urban drainage.

Though ahead of the November date, we’re already exploring elements like these at future HBD places like Roman Way in Preston. Our planned warehouse and industrial scheme there will be developed on a greenfield site which has been allocated for Employment use. We have agreed with the Council a contribution to Lancashire Wildlife Trust to help maintain a nearby SSSI, and we are also looking at sustainable urban drainage and other elements that will help the natural habitat flourish.

These options do however come at a cost, and that has the potential to compromise the viability of a scheme. In such cases developers can potentially look at achieving the 10% net gain offsite – however you need to be mindful of clauses in the rule; the further the gain is from the development the less weight it will hold in your calculations.

And if this still doesn’t work? In such rare instances, developers will need to purchase statutory credits from the government – but be wary as these have already fluctuated in cost and could add up to a considerable cost.

The countdown begins

Overall, this is a change for the better for the environment, but developers need to be prepared now and have BDNG strategies for sites  in place  now so that they are fully up to speed with the changes and requirements ahead of November.

There are also significant considerations when it comes to cost – not least in the current macro-economic climate as developers continue to assess and appraise the cost of delivering schemes. Ultimately though, making sustainable decisions is essential for the environment and these initiatives will always come at a premium. Ethical developers with a genuine desire to protect the planet will want to remain ahead of the curve and lead by example in embracing these changes as they create new communities for everyone – where humans, flora and fauna can thrive.